United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes to the Court on Defendant Jesse Rodriguez's
Motion for Severance from All Defendants. Dkt. 212. The
United States of America has filed an opposition in response.
Dkt. 213. The Court DENIES the motion.
April 26, 2018, Defendant Jesse Rodriguez was charged in
Counts One, Two, and Twelve of a multi-defendant,
twelve-count indictment. Dkt. 1. Count One relates to a
racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1962(d); Count Two involves a drug trafficking conspiracy in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(C); and
Count Twelve relates to maintaining a drug premises and
aiding and abetting in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
856(a)(1) and (b) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Count One
implicates seven defendants, including Jesse Rodriguez's
brother, Jordan Rodriguez. Defendant moves to sever his trial
from that of his co-defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of
Criminal Procedure 14(a). Dkt. 212.
general rule, individuals who are charged together should
also be tried together, particularly in conspiracy cases.
See United States v. Chavez, 584 F.3d 1354, 1360
(11th Cir. 2009). In considering a motion to sever, a
district court must “balance the prejudice that a
defendant may suffer from a joint trial, against the
public's interest in judicial economy and
efficiency.” United States v. Knowles, 66 F.3d
1146, 1158 (11th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). To prevail on
a motion for severance, a defendant must show that they would
suffer from “compelling prejudice” from the
joinder. Martinez v. United States, Nos.
09-cv-22374, 07-cr-20252, 2010 WL 4813805, at *7 (S.D. Fla.
May 5, 2010) (citation omitted). A defendant, however, does
not suffer compelling prejudice simply because much of the
evidence at trial applies only to co-defendants. United
States v. Abbell, 926 F.Supp. 1545, 1552 (S.D. Fla.
1996) (citing United States v. Smith, 918 F.2d 1501,
1509-10 (11th Cir. 1990)).
motion, Defendant argues first that this Court should sever
his trial from his co-defendants' trial because he will
be severely prejudiced by the introduction of evidence at
trial which has “no relation to him.” Dkt. 212 at
5. Secondly, the defense argues that a jury will have
considerable difficulty separating Jesse Rodriguez's
alleged acts in furtherance of the conspiracy from those of
his co-defendant brother, Jordan Rodriguez. Id. at
6. The Court finds neither argument compelling.
motion relies on the fact that because, unlike his
co-defendants, Jesse Rodriguez was not charged with murder in
furtherance of the conspiracy, a joint trial will unduly
prejudice him. However, Defendant has not met the
“heavy” burden of demonstrating compelling
prejudice. See United States v. Aiken, 76 F.Supp.2d
1346, 1356 (S.D. Fla. 1999). Even if he has shown prejudice,
such prejudice would not outweigh the public's interest
in trying Defendant and his co-conspirators together.
government argues that severance is improper because, under
Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 646-48
(1946), a defendant's guilt may derive not just from his
own acts but also from acts of his co-conspirators. Dkt. 213
at 6; see United States v. Baldwin, 774 F.3d 711,
727 (11th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted) (“A defendant
may be held responsible for the reasonably foreseeable acts
of his co-conspirators in furtherance of [a]
conspiracy.”). While the government could present
evidence of crimes for which Defendant is perhaps not
directly responsible, such evidence nonetheless would
possibly relate to crimes for which the
“enterprise”-the criminal organization of which
Defendant allegedly is a member-is directly responsible.
event, such large evidentiary overlap is the nature of RICO
conspiracy cases and not grounds for severance. As the First
Circuit articulately explained:
By their nature, RICO cases involve many defendants,
sometimes with family relationships, and often include
multiple repulsive acts. There are ways, with skillful trial
management and diligent counsel, to prevent these risks from
growing into actual harm. . . . .
Such uneasiness is inherent in joint RICO trials, and the
unsavoriness of one's co-defendant (including past
criminal conduct) is not enough, by itself, to mandate
United States v. DeCologero, 530 F.3d 36, 52-53 (1st
the Court disagrees that a murder charge and the charges
Defendant faces differ so much in culpability as to compel
severance-especially in a racketeering case. See
Aiken, 76 F.Supp.2d at 1350 (citation omitted) (denying
motions for severance in RICO conspiracy cases involving
murder where the acts alleged in ...